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Getting More of Something You Can't Buy


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What is something that you can't buy more of no matter how much money you have? Time. For the wealthiest man in the world and the poorest, there are 24 hours in the day and 365 days a year. Whether you have $10 billion in your bank account or $2, you can't make the clock tick any slower.

For workers this means that every minute spent on the job is one less they are able to spend with their loved ones. The average American works about 1,639 hours each year and sleeps for 2,920 hours. When you factor in commute times and running errands, the time spent with family gets squeezed even more.

Spending extra hours at work isn't easy for most Americans. Often, what gets lost is time at a baseball game, a dance recital or a family dinner. More than half of working moms and dads find it difficult to balance family and a job. About one-third of parents don't think they are spending enough time with their children.

Nearly half of all parents also report that they don't have enough time for personal activities including exercise and reading. This lack of time is a contributing factor to obesity and stress.

For nearly 30 years, state and local government employees have had a choice when they work overtime: take the additional pay or bank those hours to use as a time off at a later date. The choice of how to use overtime hours is left strictly up to the worker. It's a system that has worked well with few complaints or abuses.

The American workforce has changed dramatically in the past few decades. In 1975, only 37 percent of families had both parents working. Today, that number has risen to 59 percent. Additionally, 8.5 million workers are single parents.

Unfortunately, federal law hasn't kept up with modern trends in work. Today the law prohibits private-sector workers from enjoying the same benefits as public-sector.

This week, the House of Representatives worked to fix that disparity. We passed the Working Families Flexibility Act, introduced by Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL).

The bill amends labor law to allow employers to offer their employees choice between cash wages and comp time when they work overtime hours. Just as with public-sector workers, employees cannot be forced to take comp time. It is always their choice between time and money.

This is protected by requiring a written agreement between employer and employee. In the case of unionized workplaces, such an agreement must be part of the collective bargaining. Again, no worker should ever be forced to give up extra pay for extra work. If there is an attempt to coerce or force an employee to take comp time, employers would be subject to double damages.

Also, an employee is protected if they change their mind. They can reverse their decision to take comp time within 30 days and receive the wages they are due. If an unanticipated expense, like health care bills or car repairs, happens then an employee has the flexibility to receive more pay.

According to the bill, employees can accrue up to 160 hours of comp time each year. They can then spend this time on whatever they want. An employer would also be required to pay out unused hours at the end of the year.

The Working Families Flexibility Act is a common sense measure to expand to the private sector something that has worked well in the public sector for many years. Right now, an employee at a public university doesn't have the same freedom as one who works at a private university. That simply doesn't make a lot of sense.

As a parent and grandparent myself, I know how precious time with the family is. Children grow up fast and you don't want to miss a minute. The Working Families Flexibility Act is about giving workers freedom and strengthening families. It protects workers and gives them more of something they can't buy at any price.

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